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Thu Jan 10, 2013, 01:40 PM

Obama's Second Chance

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2133334-1,00.html

Obama's Second Chance
By Joe Klein Monday, Jan. 21, 2013


We have a new year and, apparently, a new Barack Obama. This year's model doesn't mess around. He is tough, resolute, unbending. He forces the Republicans to raise taxes for the first time in 22 years. He says he won't negotiate with the Republicans over their next manufactured crisis, the debt ceiling. He nominates former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, despite the objections of noisy neoconservatives and the quietly powerful Israel lobby. He seems ready to make aggressive proposals on immigration and gun control.

These are all positive steps. The President has decided that he is, for the moment, in a position of power and, unlike his first-term negotiating style, seems ready to bulldoze his hapless opponents. This has given rise to a fair amount of wailing and teeth-gnashing among Republicans, who've suddenly recognized that they're on the wrong side of demography--but don't seem to realize yet that the public is entirely sick of gimmicks like the debt-ceiling apocalypse. In this, they match the inept Democrats of the 1980s, who were convinced that the election of Ronald Reagan presaged the onset of American fascism. I'll never forget Congressman Dick Gephardt's response to Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign theme: "It's ... midnight and it's getting darker all the time."

It's never midnight in America, but there is too much black humor passing for public policy these days. The darkness was neon in the farcical but sort of serious suggestion, supported by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, among others, that the President mint a $1 trillion platinum coin and place it in the Treasury, thus eliminating the need to raise the debt ceiling. Krugman said this was "silly but benign," as opposed to the Republicans' silly but noxious efforts to hold the nation's economy hostage by raising the prospect of a U.S. default on outstanding loans. The operative word was silly.

And here I must say a few words about the Democrats. Unlike the Republicans, they live in a recognizable version of America. They do not deny climate change, or evolution, or see urban areas as a foreign country; over the past 30 years, they've been far better at fiscal discipline than Republicans have. But there is a smugness and lassitude to the party right now, an absence of creative new policy thinking, a tendency to defend corroded industrial-age welfare and entitlement programs. They even blocked a modest money-saving change in Social Security's cost-of-living index. And this is where the real challenge of Obama's second term will lie.

snip//

But more is needed than that. What we really need right now is the exact opposite of the flagrantly witless conversation we've been having. We need a real plan to renovate the creaky welfare, regulatory, revenue and infrastructure components of our government. This does not simply mean a green-eyeshade look at how best to cut entitlements. It means a substantive move to make health care better, as well as less expensive. It means a renewed discussion of citizenship--whether people who get benefits, like food stamps or Pell Grants, from the government owe us some community service in return. It means a revised tax code with lower rates, fewer loopholes and higher taxes on polluters.

Action on any of these issues is unlikely, but the conversation needs to start--and I'm hoping for a return of the early, visionary Obama to get it going in his second Inaugural Address.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 02:11 PM

1. I wish I could Rec this a thousand times!

But there is a smugness and lassitude to the party right now, an absence of creative new policy thinking, a tendency to defend corroded industrial-age welfare and entitlement programs. They even blocked a modest money-saving change in Social Security's cost-of-living index. And this is where the real challenge of Obama's second term will lie. . . .

But more is needed than that. What we really need right now is the exact opposite of the flagrantly witless conversation we've been having. We need a real plan to renovate the creaky welfare, regulatory, revenue and infrastructure components of our government. This does not simply mean a green-eyeshade look at how best to cut entitlements. It means a substantive move to make health care better, as well as less expensive. It means a renewed discussion of citizenship--whether people who get benefits, like food stamps or Pell Grants, from the government owe us some community service in return. It means a revised tax code with lower rates, fewer loopholes and higher taxes on polluters.


"witless" because the conversation is dominated by whoever wants to throw their weight around, the most-common-denominator from whatever part of the political spectrum, who, no doubt, have a right to a voice of their own and their own position in the course of things, but it IS time to say that corporate personhood has, intentionally or otherwise raised extortion to a new art form, and I don't see anything on the horizon, or elsewhere, to establish a reasonable balance, so that conspiracy theories about BO and for-profit "health" "care" are not equated with the human rights of starving infants in Africa.

One hopes that the Democratic party will meet these challenges, because the issues need something (unlike 3rd-whatevers) that has that kind of demographic potential, i.e. numbers. Labor comes to mind, but one would also have to be a goose not to recognize how acutely Labor is pulled from all political/economic directions, by workers' understandable individual needs to pay the bills, so divining their byzantine internal processes may be too much to bank the hopes of an entire nation on.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 02:28 PM

2. This is third-way nonsense telling us we need to cut Social Security.

Sounds like a Republican disguised as a Democrat to me.

They even blocked a modest money-saving change in Social Security's cost-of-living index. And this is where the real challenge of Obama's second term will lie.
This jerk thinks we should have applauded while they were trying to cut Social Security. It's sad to see this kind of right-wing propaganda being peddled on supposedly liberal website.

This is about how Obama needs to stand up to the liberals and the left and form alliances with right-wing losers like Tom Corburn.

Joe Klein can go jump in a lake.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 06:51 PM

3. +100

Thank you.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 11:14 PM

9. Yup. I completely agree with uou

Just like the way he caved in on the 400k tax increased and ss increased on us, the working class which is in reality? A chunk of our money. :/

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Response to LukeFL (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 11:27 PM

10. Joe Klein supported George Bush's plan to privatize social security.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:34 PM

4. KnR Democrats have to step up to the plate as well

This is not "third way" policy at all, but an observation about how things are and how we might move forward and actually progress.

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Response to Hekate (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 09:16 PM

5. So cutting Social Security benefits is "actually progress" ?

and that's just the way things are.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 09:21 PM

6. Did Klein say to cut the benefits?

But there is a smugness and lassitude to the party right now, an absence of creative new policy thinking, a tendency to defend corroded industrial-age welfare and entitlement programs. They even blocked a modest money-saving change in Social Security's cost-of-living index. And this is where the real challenge of Obama's second term will lie.

Does that say "cut the benefits" or is that just your interpretation of same?

And btw Obama has had 4 years now to cut or gut entitlements and has (apparently bewilderingly) failed to do so. When will he do it?

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Response to Hekate (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:05 PM

7. He said we were so smug because we fought to block Social Security cuts.

He said Democrats are smug because we are defending welfare and entitlements and we even dared to block what he calls "modest" cuts. "Modest" to Joe Klein I'm sure. He's not counting on Social Security because I'm sure he's not planning on a retirement hovering just over the poverty line.

How dare we defy what the serious people are telling us needs to happen with our vital social programs? After all they're the adults. We're just bottom-feeding leeches who don't understand how government really works.

When will he do it?
good question.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 11:01 PM

8. Klein is a tool

 

Well said.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 11:41 PM

11. Meh, Klein lost me at Coburn. Nothing good ever comes out of that man's mouth.

Ever. And he's blaming Obama for not staying friends with one of the Senate's chief obstructors?

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 07:43 AM

12. This sounds like some of the stuff I read on Facebook after the election

The person who was a long time friend (20 years) said that Obama needed to use his second term to redeem himself (or something like that). After weeks of some nasty fights I kicked her off my friends list.

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